County Tackles Food Security with New Round of Grants

The Arlington County Department of Human Services (DHS) announced June 3 a second round of grants aimed at improving food security in Arlington. The funding will be available to area 501(c)(3) organizations, faith-based groups and schools and universities that support aspects of Arlington’s Food Security Strategic Plan, with the maximum grant award $25,000.

The Food Security Strategic Plan was released in May 2022. It was prepared by the Food Security Task Force of 28 stakeholders in partnership with the Urban Institute. The Committee met for 12 months to gather information, produce a needs assessment and come up with a strategic plan. The report found 7.8 percent of Arlingtonians were experiencing food insecurity in 2019.

The first round of grants was announced in December 2023 when the County Board allocated $150,000 in one-time food security mini-grants to such groups as Bridges to Independence in the amount of $7,012 to purchase a freezer for their food pantry, $9,000 to Randolph Elementary School to provide more fresh produce and proteins at monthly school food distributions, $12,500 to Food for Neighbors to provide teen-friendly food, $19,334 to Meals on Wheels to cover the cost of for homebound people under age 60 who are ineligible for Area Agency on Aging funding. The team reviewing the grants was composed of community members, food security experts and county staff. 

Stephanie Hopkins, Arlington County Department of Human Services Food Security Coordinator, says the first round of grants have until June 2024 to spend the funds. “But I can tell you what I know so far about the impact from the mid-grant report. 

“One really successful project is The D.C. Food Project. They set up Food Share baskets with 10 share tables in seven elementary and two middle schools in Arlington where kids could drop off something they didn’t want—a bag of carrots, an apple—and other kids could pick it up. I went to visit Long Branch Elementary and counted how much was reused. The kids had shared sandwiches, cheese sticks, fruit and carrots. Kids knew they could go back and pick up something if they were hungry because the food was going to be there.”

She says another successful project was Food for Neighbors targeted at middle and high schools where there isn’t the same focus on providing assistance. “We collect food from the community and set up things like bins of granola bars. You can just email Food for Neighbors Red Bag program, and they will send someone to pick up your donation at your house.” This program serves six middle and high schools in Arlington. Request a red bag here:

Hopkins said when the Food Security report was issued the percent of Arlingtonians experiencing food insecurity was 7.8 percent. Now two years later despite all of the efforts that came out of the report, the number of Arlingtonians experiencing food insecurity has grown to an estimated 8.1 percent as of September 2023. New data will be available July 1.

“Part of it is that people's wages haven’t gone up but they have a harder time paying for groceries with food costing 20 percent more. At the end of the day their wages haven't gone up 20 percent.”

In addition, she points out that a lot of the benefits that were higher during Covid have gone back to normal. 

“We’ve been doing a lot of outreach and trying to reduce the stigma of going to food pantries. Part of me wants to believe this has made a difference.” 

Hopkins says a Food Assistance Resource Guide was just released. “I”m really proud of it. For instance, a social worker identifies a family in need who doesn’t have enough food. They can walk you through the specifics of the options, or explain a program like WIC. There is a link online to access the Guide.

“We have $150,000 to distribute again.” Applications for the second round of grants will be accepted until Tuesday, July 9. 

New Grant Program Tackles Food Security

This is the second round of project funding for food security projects. Last year, the County awarded $150,000 in grant funding for projects that provided healthy food and snacks at schools, supported nutrition education, covered the cost of Meals on Wheels for some homebound seniors, and bolstered SNAP outreach.  

“The work funded in the first round of grants has been impactful, and we anticipate more of the same with this second round of funding,” said DHS Director Anita Friedman. 

View the full notice of funding availability for eligible activities, reporting requirements, and additional grant guidelines.

Applications are now live and will be accepted until Tuesday, July 9, 2024, at 5 p.m. Funding awards will be announced in late September 2024, and recipients will be required to sign the FY 2025 Food Security Mini-Grants Program Grant Agreement with the County. Funds must be spent by organizations before June 30, 2025